Mass graves of Rohingya reveal evidence of Myanmar genocide
The faces of the men half-buried in the mass graves had been burned away by acid or blasted by bullets. Noor Kadir finally recognised his friends only by the colours of their shorts.
Kadir and 14 others, all Rohingya Muslims in the Myanmar village of Gu Dar Pyin, had been choosing players for the soccer-like game of chinlone when the gunfire began.
They scattered but by the time the Myanmar military stopped shooting, only Kadir and two teammates were left alive. Days later, he found six of his friends among the bodies in two graves.
They are among at least five mass graves, all previously unreported, that have been confirmed through multiple interviews with more than two dozen survivors in Bangladeshi refugee camps and through time-stamped cellphone videos.
The Myanmar government regularly claims that such massacres of the Rohingya never happened and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 "terrorists" in the village of Inn Din.
However, the AP's reporting shows a systematic slaughter of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the military, with help from Buddhist neighbours - and suggests that many more graves hold many more people.
Myanmar has cut off access to Gu Dar Pyin, so it's unclear just how many people died, but satellite images obtained from DigitalGlobe, along with video of homes reduced to ash, reveal a village that has been wiped out.
Community leaders in the refugee camps have compiled a list of 75 dead so far, and villagers estimate the toll could be as high as 400, based on testimony from relatives and the bodies they've seen in the graves and strewn about the area.
Almost every villager interviewed by the AP saw three large mass graves at Gu Dar Pyin's northern entrance, near the main road, where witnesses say soldiers herded and killed most of the Rohingya.
A handful of witnesses confirmed two other big graves near a hillside cemetery, not too far away from a school where more than 100 soldiers were stationed after the massacre. Villagers also saw other, smaller graves scattered around.
In the videos of the graves obtained by the AP, dating to 13 days after the killing began, blue-green puddles of acid sludge surround corpses without heads and torsos that jut into the air. Skeletal hands seem to claw at the ground.
Survivors said that the soldiers carefully planned the August 27 attack, then tried to hide what they had done.
They came to the slaughter armed not only with rifles, knives, rocket launchers and grenades, but also with shovels to dig pits and acid to burn away faces and hands, so that the bodies could not be identified.
Six days after the massacre, Kadir (24) risked his life to dodge the dozens of Myanmar soldiers occupying the local school so he could look for his four cousins.
That's when he found his teammates half-buried in the mass graves. He also saw four plastic containers that turned out to contain acid.